The purpose of the designated hitter rule is pretty clear, and it has been since the moment it was adopted by the American League in 1973. It’s designed to bring more offense into the game by taking typically light-hitting pitchers out of the lineup and replacing them with players who hit and only hit because they’re really good at hitting.
It’s simple really, except for the times when even those designated to hit go into a slump. Unfortunately for the New York Yankees, that currently applies to all of their designated hitters. With Chase Headley’s 0-for-3 during their 2-1 loss to the Astros in ALCS Game 2 on Saturday, Yankees’ DH’s are now a combined 0-for-27 with nine strikeouts to begin the postseason.
That’s right, the Yankees designated hitters are completely hitless through eight games, and the lack of production is clearly catching up to them.
The Yankees have utilized three different players in that role this postseason — Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Holliday. On four occasions, manager Joe Girardi has changed DHs in the middle of the game, yet the results have remained the same throughout.
No hits for the designated hitters.
Ellsbury, an outfielder known more for his speed than power, has been the preferred choice to start games. He’s been penciled into the lineup four times, but is 0-for-9 with three strikeouts and two walks. The switch-hitting Headley has logged the most at-bats, going 0-for-15 with eight strikeouts. Holliday was 0-for-3 in that role during Game 1 of the ALCS.
What’s really interesting here in the usage of each player in this role as compared to the regular season. Holliday was the Yankees most frequent DH, logging 390 plate appearances. He only hit .219 in the role, however, which might make it easier for Girardi to justify going a different direction.
As for Ellsbury and Headley, they were a combined 14-for-69. Both have done it before this season, but it’s not a role either is really accustomed to having. There is something to be said for making the adjustment to only batting in a given game.
It seems the biggest factor is that the Yankees want Greg Bird’s bat in the lineup at first base, where Headley played a lot this season, in addition to having Aaron Hicks glove and bat in center field. Bird’s inclusion has paid off with a couple home runs, including the only run in Game 3 of the ALDS. Hicks, on the other hand, is hitting just .143.
With the Yankees heading home for Game 3, now might be a good time for Girardi to shake things up a bit. They definitely need some type of spark after losing two games in Houston by the same 2-1 score. Then again, it might be a situation worth leaving alone too. It seems unlikely the struggles will continue, especially to this degree. So betting on the same horses might be the worst idea.
Whatever Girardi decides, those designated to hit need to do just that.
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